DONETSK, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's offer of "special status" within Ukraine for the breakaway eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk is insufficient, says a senior figure in the separatist leadership in Donetsk.
Aleksandr Karaman, deputy prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, told RFE/RL on September 9 that the separatist government has decided that any negotiations with Kyiv must "be based on the principle of the sovereignty of the Donetsk People's Republic."
He said the people of the region have made their decision in favor of independence.
"Now, after a war in which thousands of people have been killed, tens of thousands injured, hundreds of thousands displaced, it is too late to say 'let's live like friends,'" Karaman said.
"The point of no return has already been passed and too many people have died -- it is too late today to say 'we'll give you some kind of independence, conduct some kind of local-government elections, and give you some sort of status.'"
Poroshenko said on September 10 that he will submit a bill to parliament granting "special status" to the breakaway regions. But he stressed that "there is no -- and there could not be -- federalization and forfeiture of this territory."
Karaman said the Donetsk People's Republic rejects former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma as the negotiator for Kyiv, saying the negotiations must be held "on the basis of equality."
Kuchma represented the Ukrainian government at talks in Minsk on September 5 and signed a 12-point agreement on a cease-fire and other steps toward ending the conflict.
One of the points in the agreement called for the decentralization of power and a "special status" for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, but it did not go into specifics.
"If on one side of the table a prime minister is sitting, then on the other side there must be his colleague, his partner, and not just some citizen, even one with a famous name," Karaman said.